Perón and the Enigmas of Argentina

In This Review

Perón and the Enigmas of Argentina

By Robert D. Crassweller
Norton, 1987
393 pp. $22.95

Part biography, part sociological study of the national character that Juan Perón both epitomized and signally influenced. It is well researched, drawing on the leader's voluminous writings, but leaves some matters unresolved, such as Perón's attitude toward and his deputies' role in the violence of the 1950s and of the Montoneros. The author limns this distinctive Hispanic-Creole civilization, with its passionate devotion to and search for community at war with the individualism of the Castilian and the gaucho. Perón, no mere personalist caudillo, attempted a resolution: "Individualism is anarchy, collectivism is dictatorship, and between them is Justicialismo." This doctrine justified authoritarianism to organize society for populist and nationalist ends. In Crassweller's judgment, Perón (and Evita) brought about "as organized a community . . . as Argentina was to achieve." The sociological analysis falters in explaining the extremist nation's sudden rejection of Perón in 1955. Another cycle, and his politicking, brought Perón back from exile; all this is superbly illuminated. Yet the prospects of Peronism without Perón are left "included among the enigmas."

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